Md. Budget Amendment Delays PMT Implementation

3/22/2014 7:00 AM
By Janice F. Booth Maryland Correspondent

The Maryland Senate has approved an amendment to the proposed state budget that would require a budget analysis on the impact of the proposed Phosphorus Management Tool before new regulations could be implemented.

Sponsored by Sen. James N. Mathias, D-Ocean City, the amendment requires “a full economic impact analysis of the proposed regulations” and a review of the “impact of these regulations on implementation costs, agricultural production efficiency, the workforce, capital investment, taxation, competition and economic development.”

Additionally, the budget analysis must review the impact of the PMT regulations on efforts to meet the 2025 Chesapeake Bay TMDL deadline for implementation of best management practices. Once the budget analysis is submitted, a 45-day review and comment period would be required.

The House of Delegates is taking up a similar amendment, which is sponsored by Del. Norman Conway, D-Salisbury.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture already has an economic impact study underway. Salisbury University’s Franklin Perdue School of Business expects to complete the economic review by July, which would allow the comment period to be completed sometime in September. According to an email from the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Buddy Hance predicts that the work on the PMT regulations can continue during the economic impact study, leading to finalization by year’s end.

Not surprisingly, farm groups are in support of the amendment. Valerie Connelly, executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, said: “The Farm Bureau supports and is pleased with the intent of the sponsors The debate over the PMT regulations is not finished.”

Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry, or DPI, said, “The amendment appears to be in line with our desire to make sure the financial implications of the proposed regulation, in whatever form it might take, are known before the regulation is put in place.”

The history of this Phosphorus Management Tool has been a point of controversy since its inception. In 2011, the state Legislature authorized the implementation of the PMT regulations.

Scientists at the University of Maryland developed the tool after more than a decade of research. It would replace the current Phosphorus Site Index and will apply to farms where soil phosphorus has a fertility index value of 150 or more.

Last July 11, the Maryland Department of Agriculture petitioned the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive and Legislative Review of the General Assembly to give emergency status to the PMT regulations so they would be in place for last fall’s planting season. But the department withdrew the petition on Aug. 26 amid concerns raised by both the farming and environmental communities.

Even with assurances from state and federal agencies, grain farmers are worried about fertilizer costs, should poultry manure be severely restricted. Poultry farmers worry about the cost of disposing of chicken waste and loss of income from the sale of that manure for fertilizer. Environmentalists worry about more phosphorous runoff into the bay.

The effort to get the PMT implemented is part of the state’s overall goal to address the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. The EPA has pointed to the necessity of eliminating manure runoff, which accounts for at least one-quarter of the excess phosphorous in the bay.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, just under 18 million pounds of phosphorus runoff polluted the bay in 2012, 10 million of which it attributes to farm runoff.

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